There's a linear quality to the Easton library's new, temporary quarters on Glebe Road that I rather like. Entering at the front door and always walking straight ahead, you pass periodicals, DVDs, audio books, and the Maryland Room on your left, Non-Fiction, Fiction, public computers, and the children's section on your right. Never having veered so much as a degree off course, you've gone from one end of the library to the other. Mike Mussina, winding up at the front door, could throw a perfect strike down the path you've trod without ever hitting a thing.
Now it happens that the entrance to the staff's workspace also stands by the front door, just opposite periodicals, while our break room (where the all-important coffee pot resides) is situated across the hall from the children's section at the other end of the building. Which means that, two or three times a day, when Mother Java calls, I have to make the long walk down from my end of the library to the other. It's an interesting stroll.
Stepping out of the door marked “Staff Only,” I take a quick look at periodicals, where, inevitably, someone sits hunched over his Star Democrat like a falcon leaning into its attack. One wonders what the day's headlines hold in store. By comparison, a reader sitting nearby—we'll make her an elderly lady—has adopted a contemplative air, one finger marking her place in the text as she studies a photograph in Cooking Light.
Walking past Fiction, I spot a lanky twenty-something sitting on the floor reading—quite possibly for the first time—the chilling opening lines of Shirley Jackson's classic “We Have Always Lived in the Castle.” Further along, in public computers, I'm struck by the looks of intense concentration on the faces staring at the screens. By contrast, at the next and final stop on my library tour, all the faces are excited, animated, for I've now reached the children's section, and here the smallest of our patrons give vent to thoughts and feelings unabashed and unafraid.
The one thing all these people have in common is that they've come here to do something that's important to them—whether applying for a job online, pondering Montaigne, or playing with one of Miss Rosemary's plastic dinosaurs. Strolling from one end of the library to the other, thinking about all the mental activity going on around me, the ideas a-borning, the plots twisting to and fro, the images flashing across untold neural networks, I find myself remembering a line from Wendell Berry, “Go with your love to the fields. / Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head / in her lap. Swear allegiance / to what is nighest your thoughts.” That is what the Talbot County Free Library is all about. It is a place where people find the time, the peace, and the resources ... to swear allegiance to what is nighest their thoughts.